In an interview with , Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero spoke about the implications of the recent Provincial Council elections. He also reiterated the need to abolish the Executive Presidency, adding that a Common Candidate was the only option left to do so.
QHow do you view the elections that were held recently?
To answer this question, the context in which the recent election was held need to be considered. While the 17th Amendment was passed in Parliament, it is now ineffective. One component of the 17th Amendment is that an independent election commission headed by the election commissioner needs to be in place to ensure free and fair elections. However there is no such commission in place. The country has an Executive president and a government. There is an administration system which is not independent. There is a police without an independent police commission. It is under this political climate that elections were held. There were blatant violations of election laws. Rallies were held even on the expressway. State resources were misused by certain candidates for their election campaigns. The media was used as a political platform. Under such circumstances, we cannot expect a free and fair election or for proper results. People are not confident about the fairness and impartiality of elections. This is proven by the fact that 20 lakhs of people have not used their vote at this election.
"We need a common candidate to bring about these basic changes to the Constitution. He will only stay in power for six months – just long enough to put these principles into action. After that he should hand over power to Parliament and leave his post."
It is evident that people need and are ready for a change. That is why the JVP and the Democratic Party has seen a big progress at the elections. Even with the government misusing its power, its voter base has reduced. Meanwhile, people seem to be fed up with the main opposition United National Party (UNP).
People’s dwindling confidence about elections is a big threat to the democracy of the country. This situation has arisen due to the 1978 Constitution. Ex-President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge promised to abolish the Executive Presidency when she came to power. So did President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is also a promise of retired General Sarath Fonseka. Even the UNP, which brought it in, is against it. Everyone is against it. So how can we expect justice and democracy from a Constitution which everyone in the country is opposed to? Everyone’s priority should be to abolish the 1978 Constitution and introduce a new Constitution which will protect the rights of citizens and bring democracy to the country. We have suffered the consequences of this Constitution for more than 35 years and now it is time to escape from it.
"The most dangerous consequence of this Constitution is the effect it has on the judiciary. The judicial system is not independent. The President can commit any crime because he is above the law."
The most dangerous consequence of this Constitution is the effect it has on the judiciary. The judicial system is not independent. The President can commit any crime because he is above the law. He can act as he wishes. He is not accountable to Parliament and neither is he accountable to the Constitution. This is a dictatorial system. A great example of this situation is the way in which Shirani Bandaranayake’s inquiry was carried out. Everything, including law and order, is under the President.
If the government cannot bring about a change in the Constitution, we will have to support the Common Candidate. We need victory for the restoration of democracy.
QHave you discussed these changes you propose with other parties?
Yes we have. Not officially but we have spoken with the leaders of other parties. The views of the JVP and the Democratic Party have been highlighted as a result of these discussions. We will finalise the draft with our proposals soon and after that we will discuss it officially with all the parties.
QWhy do we need a Common Candidate?
We need a common candidate to bring about these basic changes to the Constitution. He will only stay in power for six months – just long enough to put these principles into action. After that he should hand over power to Parliament and leave his post. This is not just my view; it is the majority view that we need a common candidate to abolish the executive presidency. We have no other option.
QAre you ready to be the Common Candidate?
No, we have not reached that stage of discussions yet. It has to be someone that all parties – including Muslim and Tamil parties can agree on. We should decide on the common candidate collectively. The person is not important, what matters is the principle. And I don’t have a yearning to come to politics, let others decide who is going to be the best common candidate and what is most important is to highlight the principles. There are Tamil and Muslim communities and there are Christian and Hindus. We don’t know what their response is to this. It has to be a person who is acceptable to all these sections.
QIs the main goal to topple the government?
No we don’t have to topple the government. We suggest that the President himself do it. Abolishing the Executive Presidency is a priority of the SLFP. So we are requesting President Mahinda Rajapaksa to take necessary action.
Abolishing the Executive Presidency is in the ‘Mahinda Chintana’ and we are asking him to put that into action. We are not challenging the government or the President. We are asking him to put his principles into action. We are in fact supporting ‘Mahinda Chintana.’ Even the members of the ruling party are opposed to the executive presidential system.
We invite everyone to take part in our endeavour to bring good governance to the country. It should include all parties, races, religions and creeds of the country. QIf the Common Candidate wins, how will he abolish the executive presidency system?
We know that the majority in the parliament is against the Executive Presidency. So I am confident that they will vote in the parliament to abolish it. If not, we will dissolve parliament. QSo what are the main objectives of your movement?
We are asking these with compassion. The country needs good governance, justice, independence of rule of law; it should be free of bribery and corruption. What is most important is to abolish the Executive Presidency and implement the17th Amendment.
This is not a movement to change government but an urge from all racial and religious communities we are seeking for everyone’s support. QDo elections make any sense to people?
Even though we talk over and over again we don’t see people using their brain when casting their votes. They will cast votes to thugs, underworld characters and even those in jail. Actors and actresses who do not know anything about politics were elected and sent to the parliament and PCs. People don’t use their vote intelligently. QSome members in the government itself say the Provincial Council system is not necessary?
Yes since it is not necessary we protested and in 1987, I was beaten up and was sent to jail. We strongly objected to this saying this is not necessary to Sri Lanka.
Just after Wayamba election those elected go on foreign tour spending Rs.400 million whose money is this. The money allocated to Provincial Councils goes to the public in rupees and cents and the rest is divided among them. It does not go to people. To do this we don’t want a PC. If we start District Development Boards we can develop districts.
"We know that the majority in the parliament is against the Executive Presidency. So I am confident that they will vote in the parliament to abolish it. If not, we will dissolve parliament"
Q Now the government is planning to introduce Overseeing ministers for districts, how do you see this move to increase more ministers?
This is an important proposal. (Sarcastic) All the PC members should be given ministerial portfolios in the PC. If necessary we can create more and more ministries. We can divide Fisheries ministry as the Ministry of Balaya, the Ministry for Kumbala and etc. We can have another ministry for Dry Fish. Sugar ministry can be divided as White Sugar Ministry and Red Sugar Ministry. QWhen you look at the recent election result we see that children and relatives of politicians were leading the race?
We can see the powers and privileges of the relevant ministers have been fully used. And there is no opportunity for others to win the election. This is the Montessori for Parliament. This is a playing ground for children of ministers. QA massive misuse of public funds is taking place but these are not been trapped by Auditor General’s inquiries?
This is why it is necessary to have the right to information for the public. There is right to information is in many country. It is there even in India. If we have right to information we have a right to all what is happening and it will be a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Look at India most retired people are very much involved and they search and investigate. When you do that a government gets scared to do any wrong. This is a right that is enjoyed by many countries. Q Why can’t the Commissioner of Elections take an estimate of the wealth of a candidate before elections and at the end of his term which is an easy way to find out how much they have accumulated?
This has never happened in this country. The Elections Commissioner is a helpless man without any power. So what can he do? He is helpless. In India the Elections Commissioner has even police powers during the election period. But in Sri Lanka he does not have any powers.
Everything said 100% correct.politicians are using Nationalism/jathiwadaya to cover all their anti democratic actions. God bless my motherland!
R.Sunthar Saturday, 05 April 2014 02:08 AM
No party leader has upto now kept the undertaking in their manifestos to abolish executive presidency. Why not support the venerable monk to contest on that single plank -to abolish the executive presidency. Not even common candidates could be expected to honour theirs after they get elected.
Punchinilame Saturday, 05 April 2014 07:21 AM
The candidate must enter into some Agreement about his Process of deliquishing his post over a fixed period & under Unforseeable circumstances - a legally accepted manner with no loopholes whatsoever.
sobers Saturday, 05 April 2014 07:24 AM
Being a minority, ven sir, you have enormous support. We appreciate your thinking. You are the ideal candidate. Good interview, may you have the blessings of thetriple gem.
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